Recorded in New York City last year, Dark Light sees nomadic New Zealand pianist Jonathan Crayford playing alongside Ben Street (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), two of the most talented and in-demand members of the new generation of jazz musicians operating in the Big Apple.
Riddled with dark, brooding mystery, it’s a beautifully played and recorded cycle of moody pieces exploring the concept of the mysterious place behind the light. Of particular note is ‘Galois’ Candle’, a song Jonathan created to express feelings associated with the sad story of mathematician Évariste Galois (1811–32). After laying the foundations for Galois theory and group theory, the Frenchman died in a duel.
While Galois’ work wasn’t properly recognised until the 20th century, it’s safe to say that in his own time, as his extensive work across the globe proves, Jonathan has definitely been acknowledged.
Throughout the record, Ben and Dan’s relationship as a rhythm section is masterful, providing the perfect support bed for Jonathan’s lyrical and emotive piano parts. Revealing more on every listen, Dark Light successfully rides the line between accessible and exploratory. It’s music you’ll feel first, but think about later. Yet more excellent work from one of our truly singular jazz figures.
Coloured by a palette heavy with the influence of mid-1950s to early 1960s American jazz music, The Cut is the most recent album-length offering from Wellington-based trumpet player and composer Alexis French.
Recorded between McGill University and Studio A in Montreal, Canada, while Alexis was studying towards a Master’s degree at the former’s Schulich School of Music, the eight-song record sees him composing for, and playing within, a quintet also showcasing tenor saxophone, guitar, bass and drums. While it might not move the conversation forward, it’s an easy and enjoyable listen on these cold winter nights.
Bringing together four of the big dogs of jazz education and live performance in Auckland, Dog is the debut album from the quartet of the same name. With Kevin Field on piano, Ron Samsom on sax/drums, Olivier Holland on bass, and Roger Manins on drums/sax over its ten-song running time, we’re treated to a fascinatingly intricate and emotive journey through sound.
Draped in hip-hugging grooves and naturalistic water-droplet melodies, Dog takes things well beyond standard. For the exploratory ears out there, it’s a pretty good way to spend just over an hour. Those saxophone lines are fiery fierce.
Leaning on the heft and dynamic of 1970s jazz fusion, yeahyeahabsolutelynoway! is a fun foray into the collective sound-worlds of Adelaide-based trio Um.. The collective project of James Brown, Sam Cagney (both on guitar/effects) and Stephen Neville, its medium- to long-form songs ripple and twirl with beautiful playing.
Rising and falling from valley to peak and back again, shades of rock, spaghetti western soundtrack composition, funk and ambient are evident from start to finish. If you’re a fan of guitar albums that play smart (but not too smart), this is one to drift away with. Poised yet vibrant work indeed.